For the Teacher at Summer’s End

I’m sitting at my desk. Music quietly plays in the background and a steady, soft rain falls outside my windows. My classroom is as ready as it can be.

I’m not.

In just a few hours, I will be gulping down nerves as I meet new parents and students at Open House. My stomach will be in knots, and I’ll wipe off my sweaty palms dozens of times. I will smile, and my face will light to see faces I know. And I will be excited about this school year. Because I am.

But I’m not ready.

Maybe you’re not either.

Just a few months ago, as the final bell clanged, I was filled with so much promise. Hopes and plans and projects and goals were going to be accomplished. I was going to get so. much. done this summer!

I was going to look over new curriculum for those three different classes, find two new AP novels to teach, help my daughter refinish a bedside table, play with my Court Jester more, snuggle on the couch each night with my Prince, start eating healthier meals, visit family, send off a manuscript to an agent, catch up on blogging, and, and, and…

Ask me if I accomplished any of that list.

Or don’t ask. That’s okay, too. Because my answer of ‘no’ swims in guilt.

I’m beginning to think teachers treat the last day of school as a time to make unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. In the same way February rolls around slapping us with the shame of unmet resolutions, August hits us with the fiery furnace of unmet goals.

That’s why I’m never ready to come back. I feel like I fail at summer. Every year.

I never get enough rest. I never get enough accomplished. And I never want to leave my family. And I never want to go back to the paperwork and the grading and the planning and the hoops to jump through.

Sure I’m ready to meet my students. I want the beautiful structure and schedule that comes with the school year. I’m tired of hearing my two children fight each other all-the-live-long day.

There are perks to going back to school.

Still. Summer’s edges taunt. I look at July fading in the distance with a deep yearning to dig my heels into the sand and refuse Monday’s first-day-of-school bell.

Here’s the thing about teacher-guilt at summer’s end. When it consumes us, as it so often does, we fail to see all our summer did hold. And as crazy as it sounds, the way to rid ourselves of our grumbling and foot stomping and arms crossing?

Gratitude.

Because I’m thankful for much. For the books I did get to read, even if they aren’t going to work for my classroom. For the time to introduce my Ella-girl to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. For the mornings (okay…days) spent in pajamas. For watching my Court Jester ride his bike without training wheels for the first time. For nights my Prince and I did get together. For our first, for-real family vacation ever.

So much of my summer was beautiful. I miss seeing those glimpses of beauty when I’m mired in the guilt of unfinished plans or the frustration that comes with being a teacher in today’s culture.

But, my friends? Look at what we get to do.

In the coming weeks we get to build relationships with students. We get to influence the lives of future doctors, nurses, politicians, mechanics, lawyers, business managers, clerks, and every other possible job on earth. We get to see that light flicker in a student’s eyes for the very first time. We get to be a part of the change. We get to be a bright spot in what can be dark days in the lives of our students. We get to love our kids.

And loving our students? That’s why we do what we do.

May I just encourage you from my own struggle? I am making a conscious choice. On this day, I choose to be grateful for the beauty in my summer. And I choose to be grateful for all I get to do on Monday when that first bell rings.

I may not jump out of bed when that alarm goes off, and I may be dragging my feet with coffee in hand. But I choose to be excited. And then I may or may not also silently count my days until next summer…

Pray for me, my friends? I will be praying for you.

It’s going to be a good year. And we can do this. We must. The future depends on us.

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6 Responses to For the Teacher at Summer’s End

  1. Sue Utterback says:

    Thank you for posting this! Almost every thing you wrote could have been written by me. Just to read it, encouraged me! Thanks again for the much needed boost in thinking and attitude.

  2. Mary says:

    I am right there with you! (Not ready and a summer “didn’t” list.) Praying for a year of engaged and eager students, lightbulbs of learning coming on and rich and encouraging relationships between you, your students and their families.

  3. Breah Hooper says:

    God, thank you for making people like Heather. Amen.

  4. Mom says:

    Beautifully written! I will be praying for you and all teachers as you return to do such an important job! As your mother, I remember the teachers who inspired you and the one who tried to crush your spirit! You learned from each one and will always be the one to inspire! Love you with all my heart!

  5. Suzanne Carter says:

    This Vero Beach mom is proud of her AP daughter in Pasco. God bless you dear writer, dear daughter, and dear colleagues as you return to your calling from which I retired a while ago. ❤️ (signed by the name given me by my grandson) – SuperNana

  6. ItsMyCircus says:

    This is SO true. I’ve been in a bit of a funk this last week & couldn’t figure out why. I’m so excited to start the new year, but there was something gnawing at me. Then I read this article & there was my light bulb moment! Thank you.

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